Lower Bounds for Dynamic Distributed Task Allocation

Authors Hsin-Hao Su, Nicole Wein

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Hsin-Hao Su
  • Boston College, MA, USA
Nicole Wein
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA


We would like to thank Yufei Zhao for a discussion.

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Hsin-Hao Su and Nicole Wein. Lower Bounds for Dynamic Distributed Task Allocation. In 47th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 168, pp. 99:1-99:14, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


We study the problem of distributed task allocation in multi-agent systems. Suppose there is a collection of agents, a collection of tasks, and a demand vector, which specifies the number of agents required to perform each task. The goal of the agents is to cooperatively allocate themselves to the tasks to satisfy the demand vector. We study the dynamic version of the problem where the demand vector changes over time. Here, the goal is to minimize the switching cost, which is the number of agents that change tasks in response to a change in the demand vector. The switching cost is an important metric since changing tasks may incur significant overhead. We study a mathematical formalization of the above problem introduced by Su, Su, Dornhaus, and Lynch [Su et al., 2017], which can be reformulated as a question of finding a low distortion embedding from symmetric difference to Hamming distance. In this model it is trivial to prove that the switching cost is at least 2. We present the first non-trivial lower bounds for the switching cost, by giving lower bounds of 3 and 4 for different ranges of the parameters.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Distributed algorithms
  • distributed task allocation
  • combinatorics
  • lower bounds
  • multi-agent systems
  • low-distortion embedding
  • dynamic algorithms
  • biological distributed algorithms


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